Windmills of the Mind

THE JOQUICOS:

TILTING AT THE “WINDMILLS OF THE MIND”

 

“Art evokes the mystery without which the world  would not exist.” The statement was famously said by the Belgian surrealist named Rene Magritte, whose influence persists into this century, while the works of the better known,  more media savvy,  Salvador Dali have been reduced to parody and kitsch. The reason for Magritte’s enduring popularity resides in the fact that his works continue to resonate with modern man, ascending  to multiple interpretations, even influencing the Conceptualists with his interplay of verbal and visual conundrums, while continuing to plumb the depths of the subconscious.

Magritte’s most iconic image is actually a self-portrait: the bowler-hatted gentleman in a black overcoat, his face obscured by a hovering green apple. Of this work, intriguingly titled “The Son of Man,” Magritte remarked: “Everything we see hides another things, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.”

Currently on view at Galerie Anna is “Windmills of the Mind”, a group exhibition by Gary Joseph Joquico, Grae Martin Joquico, and paterfamilias Gerry Joquico. Magritte himself  would have been the ideal guest invited (in spirit, of course) to cut the ceremonial ribbon, for his influence is admirably pervasive in the works of the Joquicos.

The bowler-hatted man appears in Gary Joseph’s works titled “Probe and Dawdle,” where he is depicted with a magnifying glass trained at the gallery visitor, while in “Missing Link,” he stands and scans the skies through a telescope, with his alter-ego, or Other Self, seated on a stool, his face entirely obscured by a dunce cap- box dumped on his head.

In Jerry Joquico’s works, we can observe Magritte’s Gentleman, out of the glare of his role as an icon, stripped of his theatrical mask and invested with a personal life. In  “Pundido,” the title refers to the overhead bulb where the man and his woman are together in a bathtub. In “Enchantment” the same couple share a quiet but emotionally charged moment of domestic bliss.

In paintings that deviate from Magritte’s character, the Joquicos explore other scenarios and narratives, sustaining the surrealist strain attuned to contemporary reality: a modiste’s shop populated by life-like but bloodless mannequins (World of Clones), a deathly-pale maiden deprived of sunlight (Etiolation), pairs of hands seemingly closing in to strangle a helpless woman (Wheel of Fortune),  and the same maiden with a rose sprouting  from her mouth and an egg-nest emerging  from her chest (Sleeper Foal).

Through  the titles which Gerry Joquico imposed on his works, he hints at mysteries hidden from plain sight while the observer is much too engrossed by the startling image,  its sensuous execution, and the curious blend of fantasy, menace and theatricality, all dominated by a grey and somber mood.

            Being the abstractionist in the family, Grae Martin Joquico was faced with the challenge of conveying the same mysterious mood in a non-representational manner. His response is centered on  greying and atmospheric abstract landscapes, where the skies are caught in a maelstrom of swirling impastoed pigments, conducted by the artist and  set to the music of the spheres; thus the titles Preludes in the Skies, Songs After The Storm, and Serenade to Luna.

            The title of the Joquicos’ show must perforce allude to the well-known Academy award-winning song, but  Magritte will also remind us of the knight Don Quixote tilting at the windmills, thinking they were giants, and that it was Surrealism that gave permission to express mankind’s deepest fears  and anxieties, which humankind continues to slay.

            Galerie Anna is at the 4/L, The Artwalk, Bldg. A, SM Megamall, EDSA, Mandaluyong City. For inquiries, call cel nos: 0936-713-9212 and 0909-591-8495.

Kabanata

Seldom do we see a show so rich in narrative sprawl, reaching into recesses of subject matter that emergeS from unexpected sources, simultaneously torn between a serious temperament and flamboyant execution, taking issue with multifarious existential anxieties and events wrought by Destiny itself. Painting of a literary bent has always been spurned and disdained by certain quarters – the critics not surprisingly at the forefront – based on the notion that narratives are more appropriately the province of literature. Stories-within-pictures often reek of fictionists seeking an extension of their domain in a medium that is better addressed to pictorial problems.

Now on view at the Galerie Anna is a show titled “Kabanata”, a solo exhibition by Janos Delacruz, progeny of senior artist Fil Delacruz, and it is one sure sign of the younger artist’s spirit of independence that his vision was not usurped from that of Delacruz pere, though the sensitive eye will not fail to notice the discrete affinities in compositional complexities. The origins, however, of Janos Delacruz’s come not from lofty epiphanies of the spirit, but from the daily musings provoked by immediate stimuli, effected by family discussions and exchanges of opinions on volatile issues such as Philippine politics, the Church, contemporary romance and sexuality of the third-sex kind, skeletons-in-the closet of one’s departed ancestors, the high rate of criminality, the drug menace, or just pure, unadulterated neighbourhood gossip. And as that cheezy Identi-kit questionnaire “You are Pinoy, if…”goes, you are bound to find Delacruz’s works suitably and delectably transfixing.

To the artist’s credit, Delacruz does not convey his omnivorous interests with naked earnestness. Instead, he cloaks his images as visual vignettes that can be interpreted in several levels, such that a couple of viewers may interpret them differently, with each one believing that he has cracked the painting’s visual code. Delacruz has addressed his art to serious subjects, without forgetting that he is not delivering a sermon on the pulpit, with all the pomp of a self-righteous preacher. He is always aware that he is, first and foremost, in front of the easel with paintbrushes waiting at his command, enacting a visual performance.

All the works are titled in the vernacular, with all the whiplash impact of contemporary reality, phrased at once in a manner jocular and wounding. In “Sunod-Sunuran sa Tuwad na Daan” or in “Katok-Pakiusap,” Delacruz delivers a message that is as straightforward as current events unreeling on the television screen. In “Karumaldumal” the word reverberates from the mouth of the People’s Champ as a vile denunciation of forbidden love. In “Sugal ang Bawa’t Padyak ng Buhay,” the artist identifies himself with the tricycle driver as Everyman, who when he leaves his house in the morning, may be on his last journey on earth. Not yet remote in Delacruz’s memory is the earthquake that devastated Japan, which he memorializes in “Sagupaan ng Langit at Lupa.” Viewers may be unnerved at the catastrophic prospect of our own country’s “The Big One.”

What is rewarding in Delacruz’s works is the sheer fertility of detailed passages, molded pictorially as in montage, flamboyant without being frivolous, each painting active and alive. Indeed, these are works that amuse themselves. Intriguingly, they can appeal to a juvenile audience, eliciting a childlike grin, since the artist’s delineation of his figures is highly stylized, imparting on them the cocky confidence of a cartoon character, leaping off the page, each one building up to a chapter, a “kabanata” reflected in Janos Delacruz’s own artistic life-story.

Taking pride of place, right smack on center stage of the gallery space, is the artist’s lone sculpture titled “Trono ng Reynang Dalahira” or “Throne of the  Gossip Queen.” Crafted in wood in the shape of a gaping mouth, riddled with spikes and painted a sizzling red, the sculpture mocks  the malodorous connivance between the tattler’s braying mouth and her torturously seated ass.

Nothing it seems can escape Janos Delacruz’s sharply observing eye, chronicling man’s every folly and pompous view of himself. For the artist, it is all grist for the mill, worth recording  in the chapters of his visual journals.

Happily Ever After

 
                                                                                    "Happily Ever After" at Galerie Anna
 
        Just as the lakeshore town of Angono became fabled for the artistry of National Artist Carlos "Botong" Francisco, so too, was its neighboring Binangonan, where lived and died National Artist Vicente Manansala. Despite the distance and the privacy of his studio on a hillside overlooking the clear waters of Laguna de Bay, Manansala was pursued by fame and fortune, with eager collectors visiting the voluble artist, affixing their names on the back of empty canvases, awaiting the master's creation. In succeeding decades, both Angono and Binangonan spawned generations of artists, touched it seemed, by Botong's and Mang Enteng's artistic DNA.
 
        Himself born and  raised in the heart of Binangonan, indeed in the lake-island of Talim, award-winning master watercolorist, Toti Cerda organizes and curates a show titled "Happily Ever After" which opens at Galerie Anna on August 1. Its participants are artists all with familial roots in the towns of Binangonan and nearby Taytay, namely, Aldron F. Anchinges, Arman Jay S. Arago, Bryan Apolinario, Cris Tuazon, Jan Pocholo Policarpio, John Perry Pellejera, Pogi Rodriguez, Romnick M. Diez, and Toti Cerda.
 
        As befits the title, the collective images in the show cultivate the Pop aesthetics of comic book fairy tales, as well as familiar mythology and contemporary cartoon characters, juxtaposed with existential concerns of anguish and anxiety, irrational fears and nameless phantoms and terrors, which are dispelled through exuberant humor and mirth, sarcasm and intentional loftiness. Interestingly, the individual works allude to each other. giving rise to various layers of tantalizing  meanings and interpretations.
 
        These Binangonan artists bask in the invigorating jumble of such characters as Santa Claus and  Hitler, Mona Lisa and Sponge Bob, Porky Pig and Little Red Riding Hood, Medusa and Cinderella. Albrecht Duhrer and Robin Williams, and the Greek god Zeus presiding in Mount Olympus. Complimenting these paintings are quirky epoxy sculptures that reinvent the standing Filipino bulul or rice god as Bugs Bunny with a grinning skull visage. The works invite the viewers' response as a savoring rediscovery of familiar and often loved Pop figures offered as sacrifices on the altar of Pop idolatry.
 
        As Grand Winner among the Hall of Fame awardees of the "Kulay sa Tubig"  competition, Toti Cerda made his name with realist watercolors depicting children at play in the rain and in the lake, rendered with superb delicacy. His sudden and unexpected incursion into Pop milieu was implicit in his large portraits of historical figures with a twist: Einstein as a chef, Chairman Mao as a turban-ed fortune teller, Marilyn Monroe as a veiled nun. His recent works are savage satires, masquerading as innocent entertainment, even as he engages the classic personas of Popeye and Olive Oyl, Mickey and Minnie Mouse as celebrity endorsers of canned spinach, motor oils and rat killers. 

Kwentong Diwata: Portraits of the Goddesses

SENSUAL SPIRITUALITY:

“Kuwentong Diwata: Portraits of the Goddesses” by Alfred Galvez

 

            Long have we heard of the enchantment of Mt. Makiling from artist-friends who have spent time studying at the Philippine High School for the Arts. Away from the congestion and contagion of our urban jungle, how we long for the serenity and solitude afforded us by a mountain-place that nestles the creative spirit. And for good reason: the beloved Mt. Makiling engendered the legend of Mariang Makiling, the diwata who is the guardian spirit of the mountain.

            Diwata is derived from the Sanskrit word devata, which is integral to Hinduism. These are spiritual beings believed to reside in large trees such as acacia and balete. They are invoked for blessings of a fruitful harvest, or health and fortune. And to those who cause harm to the forest and the mountain, they can incur illness or misfortune. A diwata is a goddess, a muse, the spirit that gives a poet, a composer or a painter his inspiration.

            One such artist who has found inspiration in the diwata is Alfred Galvez, who, not surprisingly, once studied at the Philippine High School for the Arts. His current show at Galerie Anna is another homage to his muse, the diwata. The show is the latest in a long series of exhibitions that are a seamless progression of visual celebration of the spirit of the forest and mountain. A distinct part of pre-colonial mythology, handed down through oral tradition, the diwata is described as extremely beautiful, ageless, of a fairer than average complexion, indeed of a pale skin. No wonder she is often called “the white lady.” What blessing for an artist like Galvez who has devoted his talent skill to the depiction of the essence of a woman’s beauty.

            Indeed, Galvez brings an eroticized thrill as he unveils the diwata emerging from the serpentine flowing of Art Nouveau lines, draping around her like an arch of triumph. The undulating lines are worthy of the arabesque, in obeisance, it seems, to the cascade of tresses, the plump voluptuous breasts, the longing and desire of a perfect and ripe physicality that must be sated. In “Unscented,” she becomes the very emblem of the hotly red flowers ready for the picking. In “Torch,” she seems to make her way through a lost dimension between the physical world and the spiritual realm. In “Twin Sister,” the artist unravels a narrative that insinuates the presence of a diwata’s alter-ego, or “other self.” Where the artist has succeeded is in the transformation of the diwata from a mystical, disembodied presence that resides within the bosom of the forest, to a distinctly living and palpable embodiment that has walked out of the confines of fantasy and fairy tales, in order to take her place in the real world. Only in that manner can the diwata be redeemed from the unfortunate anachronism to which she is otherwise sure to be consigned. No wonder, Galvez has invested the diwata with a sensual spirituality.

            This was achieved through the idiom of Classical Realism, which has been seeing a resurgence in the hands of extremely skilled practitioners. It places a high premium on pictorial skill and a devotion, if not obsession, with beauty as imagined by the ancient Greeks and resurrected in the hands of Renaissance artists. By all intents, it repudiates modern art, which is considered a devaluation of reality. Classical Realism has taken revenge on Modernism through the challenge of technical perfection and craftsmanship, and the idealization of the human figure.

            With this exhibition, Alfred Galvez once more proves that he is a voluptuary of idealized beauty, which he has found in the goddess-like being of the diwata.

  • Cid Reyes

           

           

Restored

DAMAGED GOODS:

“RESTORED” by Ricky Ambagan

 

          The sacrosanct status that we ascribe to works of art is questioned by Ricky Ambagan in his exhibition “Restored.” The concept, as he has shared in his Artist’s Statement, originated from a real freak incident, which occurred in a Taiwan museum. A twelve-year-old boy, intently listening to a tourist guide, slipped and tripped, and to gain his balance, caused his small fist, holding on to the painting, to puncture a hole on the canvas. As it happens, the show was a Leonardo Da Vinci-themed show. Stirred by the incident, Ambagan pondered on the consequences of a damaged artwork: has the worth of the painting been diminished? Should the painting be restored, “covered-up,” or should the damage be retained as part of its destiny?

          Conflating the two distinct and opposing tendencies of aesthetic appreciation --- Marcel Duchamp’s anti-retinal approach, determined not to please the eye but to excite the mind, and Caravaggio’s classical realism, which has regained ascendancy in the twentieth-century --- Ambagan christens it with the term Hybridism Movement.” Punctiliously, he chose to appropriate as his ideal subject Caravaggio’s painting, “The Doubting of St. Thomas.” Ingeniously, the curious poking of his forefinger into the  wound of Christ to prove that He is alive and risen from the grave parallels that of the Taiwanese boy puncturing the Da Vinci-inspired canvas. Moreover, the connection between Da Vinci and Duchamp (Dachamp?) is thrust upon us when we consider that Duchamp once appropriated a postcard of the Mona Lisa and mischievously, irreverently applied a moustache and a goatee on the dignified smiling maiden.

          “Dachamp,” no doubt, is Ambagan’s “The Greatest,” which is a painting of an imagined monumental sculpture of the late, lamented Muhammad Ali. In this sculpture, a child, wearing a T-shirt printed with the image of The Champ, clambers up across his body, intent on reaching the peak, symbolic of the ascent of the pugilistic career. Here is an instance whose life has been so battered, his health damaged by Parkinson’s Disease, like precious art defiled by relentless beatings, and alas, could not be restored.

          But have we not found that there is an essential beauty in a ruined state? Would we appreciate the Greek statue of the Venus de Milo more had her missing arms been found and restored? Are the Temple of the Parthenon and the Elgin Marbles, looted by the British army and hauled to the British Museum, any less impressive for their fragmentary state? To be sure, there is a need to save the precious artworks of mankind, no matter that it takes twenty years to restore, as did da Vinci’s faded Last Supper in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Though there are instances, painfully so, when restoration, like a botched plastic surgery, could not heal the damage it has sustained. Alas, our very own Spoliarium by Juan Luna, is a sad example. Sliced up in several pieces when it was shipped back to our country, the restorer Antonio Dumlao could not conceal the sutures of the wounded obra maestra.

Damaged goods? Ricky Ambagan’s “Restored” resets our perspective on the notion of the original condition.

  • CID REYES

 

 

 

 

Faces Phases

EDMAR COLMO: FACES/PHASES                       EUGENE CUBILLO: ENCOUNTERS

 

“There will be time, there will be time

To meet the faces that you meet.”

T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

            Back to back, like the Janus face, one looking to the past and the other to the future, or vice-versa, are the simultaneous solo shows at Galerie Anna of Edmar Colmo and Eugene Cubillo, titled, respectively, “Faces/Phases” and “Encounters.” Thus a tension has been set for a face-off, for indeed both their works have taken over the human visage, have torn off the masks of trauma and hypocrisy, and laid bare for all to see, in the words of the poet T. S. Eliot, “the hundred indecisions, visions, and revisions” of a life wasted in regret and fear, doubts and anxieties.

            One cannot view the works of Colmo without being reminded of  the  portraits of the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldi (1527-1593), whose faces - every feature  of it, from eyes, ears, nose, and lips, to neck and hair -  are made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flower, fish, and books. He was regarded by his contemporaries as either a deranged man or a genius, but still today, over five centuries hence, Arcimboldi’s style is still a source of great fascination, indeed an inspiration for parody and homage. To the credit of Colmo, however, he has transcended the style, and in place of fruits and fish, he has etched and limned on the human visage a multitude of ghostly faces, transforming the face into a vessel of memories of personages that continue to haunt the portrait.

A number of portraits are religious in orientation, with Jesus, Santa Maria, and Rose of Mary, as objects of veneration. All the faces have been lined with narrow bands, like passing shadows that attempt to hide the mystery and enigma beyond the human features.  Colmo displays a deftly lyrical flamboyance, revelling in a profusion of curling arabesques, tiny buds of flowers, swirling lines, and lacey traceries, like ornamental cut-out pieces of delicate table doilies. The exception to this is the portrait of the Christ, “Hesus,” which seems to have been whisked with splatters of dark pigments, perhaps alluding to the flagellation and the crucifixion. The same kind of treatment is rendered on the other two male figures, the portraits in “Gumon” and “Hardin ng Isipan.”

In contrast, a more contemporary tone is struck by Eugene Cubillo in his urban contemporary assault on the psyche, thus the title “Encounters,” where the human visage dissolves in mist, or glimpsed as if in a dream or apparition. The concerns and anxieties written on these faces are more harsh, more psychologically charged, and steeped in existential despair and foreboding with unnamed fears. The works are marked with irony, as compare the insolent “Smiley” paintings, where a smile contains more secrets and veiled sarcasm in the muscles of the face, with the lip service attitude manifested in “Bukang Bibig” and the fraught expression of the unemployed in “Looking for a Job.”

Undoubtedly, the most haunting work by Cubillo is titled “Still Alive,” which alludes to the “desaparecidos” (the disappeared; or the “salvaged,” to use the expression prevalent in our media). In this work, an entire line-up of ID or passport photos conveys a horrifying message: the lost and wasted lives of people who were martyred for a cause or ideology. The faces of these nameless ones, who were photographed, as the saying goes, “in happier times,” send shivers down the spine, as we, the gallery audience, encounter them, who could easily have been our fathers, brothers, and sisters. Alas, taken aback, and much too soon, we have had no time to prepare to meet these faces that we meet.

These two artists, Edmar Colmo and Eugene Cubillo, who collaborated on a single, similar theme, have shared  their own individual revelations that light up the darkness of the human face.

                                                *******

 

Encounters

EDMAR COLMO: FACES/PHASES                       EUGENE CUBILLO: ENCOUNTERS

 

“There will be time, there will be time

To meet the faces that you meet.”

T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

            Back to back, like the Janus face, one looking to the past and the other to the future, or vice-versa, are the simultaneous solo shows at Galerie Anna of Edmar Colmo and Eugene Cubillo, titled, respectively, “Faces/Phases” and “Encounters.” Thus a tension has been set for a face-off, for indeed both their works have taken over the human visage, have torn off the masks of trauma and hypocrisy, and laid bare for all to see, in the words of the poet T. S. Eliot, “the hundred indecisions, visions, and revisions” of a life wasted in regret and fear, doubts and anxieties.

            One cannot view the works of Colmo without being reminded of  the  portraits of the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldi (1527-1593), whose faces - every feature  of it, from eyes, ears, nose, and lips, to neck and hair -  are made entirely of objects such as fruits, vegetables, flower, fish, and books. He was regarded by his contemporaries as either a deranged man or a genius, but still today, over five centuries hence, Arcimboldi’s style is still a source of great fascination, indeed an inspiration for parody and homage. To the credit of Colmo, however, he has transcended the style, and in place of fruits and fish, he has etched and limned on the human visage a multitude of ghostly faces, transforming the face into a vessel of memories of personages that continue to haunt the portrait.

A number of portraits are religious in orientation, with Jesus, Santa Maria, and Rose of Mary, as objects of veneration. All the faces have been lined with narrow bands, like passing shadows that attempt to hide the mystery and enigma beyond the human features.  Colmo displays a deftly lyrical flamboyance, revelling in a profusion of curling arabesques, tiny buds of flowers, swirling lines, and lacey traceries, like ornamental cut-out pieces of delicate table doilies. The exception to this is the portrait of the Christ, “Hesus,” which seems to have been whisked with splatters of dark pigments, perhaps alluding to the flagellation and the crucifixion. The same kind of treatment is rendered on the other two male figures, the portraits in “Gumon” and “Hardin ng Isipan.”

In contrast, a more contemporary tone is struck by Eugene Cubillo in his urban contemporary assault on the psyche, thus the title “Encounters,” where the human visage dissolves in mist, or glimpsed as if in a dream or apparition. The concerns and anxieties written on these faces are more harsh, more psychologically charged, and steeped in existential despair and foreboding with unnamed fears. The works are marked with irony, as compare the insolent “Smiley” paintings, where a smile contains more secrets and veiled sarcasm in the muscles of the face, with the lip service attitude manifested in “Bukang Bibig” and the fraught expression of the unemployed in “Looking for a Job.”

Undoubtedly, the most haunting work by Cubillo is titled “Still Alive,” which alludes to the “desaparecidos” (the disappeared; or the “salvaged,” to use the expression prevalent in our media). In this work, an entire line-up of ID or passport photos conveys a horrifying message: the lost and wasted lives of people who were martyred for a cause or ideology. The faces of these nameless ones, who were photographed, as the saying goes, “in happier times,” send shivers down the spine, as we, the gallery audience, encounter them, who could easily have been our fathers, brothers, and sisters. Alas, taken aback, and much too soon, we have had no time to prepare to meet these faces that we meet.

These two artists, Edmar Colmo and Eugene Cubillo, who collaborated on a single, similar theme, have shared  their own individual revelations that light up the darkness of the human face.

                                                *******

 

 

Manobo : Images Of Heritage

 

Manobo: Images of Heritage

 

According to ethnographer J. Elkins, “The Manobo belongs to the original stock of proto-Philippine or proto-Austronesian people who came from South China thousands of years ago. He later coined the term Manobo to designate the stock of original, non-negritoid people of Mindanao. They mostly inhabit the hinterlands specifically on the boundaries of Agusan, Bukidnon, Cotabato, Davao, and Misamis Oriental.

 

          Traditional fabric for clothes was abaca or hemp, weaved by the ikat process, but is now cotton cloth obtained through trade. Dyes were acquired from plants and trees. Ginuwatan are inwoven with representational designs such as flowers. If cotton trade cloth is bought, big floral designs are preferred. Typical colors are red, black, yellow, green, blue and white.”

 

          Currently on view at the Galerie Anna is Jun Impas’s homage to the Lumad of Mindanao. The word means indigenous or native. For this exhibition, the artist has distinctly focus on the culture, traditions, and rituals of the Manobo.

 

This exhibition, however, is imbued by turns with deeper poignancy and with greater significance brought about by two contrasting incidences of present times. The first is the crisis caused by the recent  events which involved the killings of the Lumad. Suffice it to quote a Lumad spokesman: “It is a form of ethnocide but it is worse because there are specific characteristics of impunity and killings targeting the Lumad. What is alarming is that it is happening all over Mindanao…The military said they were rebels, but the New Peoples’ Army denied the claim, saying the victims were civilians.”

 

The second, as we all know since the nation is still caught up in the wake of the turbulent and acrimonious election, is the triumphant victory of having the first Mindanaoan head of state: President Rodrigo Duterte. And of course the question that immediately arise is: how will he solve the Lumad killings?

 

Only upon the acknowledgment of these two separate events can we begin to celebrate the recent works of Cebuano artist, Jun Impas. Titled “Manobo: Images of Heritage,” the show is an outright jubilation of the culture of the Manobo, and understandably from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, the artist marveled at the pageantry of ceremony and the deeply glowing hues of their fabric and clothing. Indeed, Impas allowed pride of place for a depiction of bands of these exotically woven fabric to enliven and strengthen the design and composition, visual flavor and emotional temper of his artworks. Moreover, when Impas lays out the bolts of Manobo fabric into coiling drapery, the viewer senses the artist has been truly swept by the beauty of the material.

Travelling down to Davao to participate in the Manobo festival, with his trusty camera and an avid spirit, Impas saw for himself the dazzling annual event of music and dance. This act of immersion and participation, imbibing the entire local color and feeling the pulse of the Manobo people, is what drives Impas to visually record the event with a documentary truth as well as a painterly passion. We need only recall that Impas  journeyed all over the archipelago, from North to South, to attend the various fiestas in order to produce that epic exhibition of Philippine fiestas, presented by Galerie Anna at the SM Art Center, with no less a distinguished guest than the Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez  in attendance. It was a kind of herculean task Impas had imposed on himself, even as he was aware of the time pressure, the physical and the financial demands this challenge would claim from him. Typically, Jun Impas redeemed himself.

 

In these recent artworks, what is touching is the sight of generations of Manobo: the children and the elderly, all caught up in the activities of the festival. The old Manobo playing the percussive instruments and the infant being held aloft by his mother are both vivid images of history and heritage, the Manobo, aborning and unfurling.

And in the midst of it is the unseen artist Jun Impas, weaving himself in and out of the crowd, as though he were himself being woven into the fabric of the lives of the Manobo.

                                                          -Cid Reyes

 

 

 

Still Life

Cesar Arro:

A RAGE TO PAINT

By Cid Reyes

 

          So obvious is the fact that no one seems to bother even saying it: an artist, in whatever field, must be viscerally, even obsessively, connected to his material, so involved with it as to constitute a passion, an obsession to draw from this substance the very spirit of his art. To wit: a writer must be in love with the use of words to communicate a narrative or ideas. A musician, using the instrument of his choice, must first take delight in sound, per se, before he can even string the notes in any melodic or harmonious sequence. A filmmaker or director must be driven by his sheer enthusiasm for the illusion of moving images. Just the touch of raw materials such as stone, marble, bronze, wood, metal, or glass, is enough to engender in a sculptor an intense desire to shape it, to release, as Michelangelo said and did, the figure trapped within it.  And for an artist, a painter….

          By his own admission, Cezar Arro, who is now holding his fifth solo show, “Still Lifes” at Galerie Anna, is addicted (his own word!) to paint. The fleshiness and glow of oils, the plasticity and versatility of acrylics, the delicacy and transparency of watercolor….all these mediums work their own possession, of an artist’s soul, invigorating and driving his spirit to create visual expressions until, as Arro himself describes his own experience, finally drained.

          The title of the show – “Still Lifes” –might puzzle the viewer. Was it intentional on the artist’s part? As we all know, a still life is a painting of inanimate objects, such as fruit, flowers, etc., often arranged on a table.  A species of still life was called the vanitas, which presents an assembly of objects that suggest the passage of time, such as clocks, hourglasses, melting candles, withering flowers, and more symbolically, butterflies, which, for all their graceful and entrancing beauty and fragility, do not live for long. All these images bespeak of a singular truth: the transcience of life, the mortality of man.

Did Cezar Arro imply this crucial message in his “Still Lifes”? For what the artist has presented is a heavy downpour, a cascading bath of watery pigments, descending, splashing, on a naked male figure, awash in all the blending polychromatic pigments. Do these works speak for the artist himself?  For indeed  he is dramatically portrayed with a palette of colors and a paintbrush gripped by his hand? That a work is titled “Exploring the New World of Arro” should suffice to answer the question.

Endowing his pigments with the magical power of transformation, Arro achieves a complete identification between the vocation of an artist and his medium. Through changing physical poses, he achieves various dimensions of existential struggle and turmoil, and thus Arro has entered into a very personal region, conveying the message that while an artist is inspired by the act of creation, his commitment to his art is also paved along the way with incalculable challenges. Realistically speaking, we can point to the example of Van Gogh, an inspiring precedent, who endured and struggled through extreme and maddening difficulties, and who was said to have sold only one painting in his lifetime! Alas, we, too, have been witness to a number of talented young artists, who, after years of commercial failures, finally just surrendered to life’s “injustice” and gave up painting completely.

And thus, we are confronted the question: Is an artist’s life an “unstill life”?

There are two striking works in the show: one is titled “Landscape,” which cleverly depicts the artist literally painting himself into a framed canvas, an utter consummation of his being into his art. The other, with a playfully worded title “Self pour trait of Frida Kahlo,” is a portrayal of the tragic Mexican artist, emerging from a dazzling downpour of paint, her hand wielding  the brush that has caused her into existence. Veritably, this work is a “tour de force,” a triumph of visual autobiography.

 And so, with these two works, Cezar Arro, still raging to paint, has justified his own unique concept of “still life.”

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